The Social Conquest of Earth (The Anthropocene Epoch #1)

all of the species that have attained eusociality, as I have stressed, live in fortified nest sites.

All of the stimuli of awe and wonder, whose capacity is invested in the human mind, have been appropriated by religious faiths across centuries, in masterpieces of literature, the visual arts, music, and architecture. Three thousand years of Yahweh have wrought an aesthetic power in these creative arts second to none. There is nothing in my own experience more moving than the Roman Catholic Lucernarium, when the lumen Christi (light of Christ) is spread by Paschal candlelight into a darkened cathedral; or the choral hymns to the standing faithful and approaching procession during an evangelical Protestant altar call. These benefits require submission to God, or his Son the Redeemer, or both, or to His final chosen spokesman Muhammad. This is too easy. It is necessary only to submit, to bow down, to repeat the sacred oaths. Yet let us ask frankly, to whom is such obeisance really directed? Is it to an entity that may have no meaning within reach of the human mind—or may not even exist? Yes, perhaps it really is to God. But perhaps it is to no more than a tribe united by a creation myth. If the latter, religious faith is better interpreted as an unseen trap unavoidable during the biological history of our species. And if this is correct, surely there exist ways to find spiritual fulfillment without surrender and enslavement. Humankind deserves better.

Also, human groups are formed of highly flexible alliances, not just among family members but between families, genders, classes, and tribes. The bonding is based on cooperation among individuals or groups who know one another and are capable of distributing ownership and status on a personal basis.

animals of the land environment are dominated by species with the most complex social systems.

Another principle that I believe can be justified by scientific evidence so far is that nobody is going to emigrate from this planet not ever....It will be far cheaper, and entail no risk to human life, to explore space with robots. The technology is already well along....the real thrill will be in learning in detail what is out there...It is an especially dangerous delusion if we see emigration into space as a solution to be taken when we have used up this planet....Earth, by the twenty-second century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise for human beings...

A society that condemns homosexuality harms itself. (254)

By 1998, members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, an elite elected group sponsored by the federal government, were approaching complete atheism. Only 10 percent testified to a belief in either God or immortality. Among them were a scant 2 percent of the biologists. In modern civilizations, there is no overwhelming importance in the general populace to belong to an organized religion. Witness,

For the entire course of evolution leading from our primitive mammalian forebears of a hundred million years ago to the single lineage that threaded its way to become the first Homo sapiens, the total number of individuals it required might have been one hundred billion. Unknowingly, they all lived and died for us. (21)

HISTORY IS A bath of blood,” wrote William James,

Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.

It should not be thought that war, often accompanied by genocide, is a cultural artifact of a few societies. Nor has it been an aberration of history, a result of the growing pains of our species’ maturation. Wars and genocide have been universal and eternal, respecting no particular time or culture.

Moreover, we look in vain to philosophy for the answer to the great riddle. Despite its noble purpose and history, pure philosophy long ago abandoned the foundational questions about human existence. The question itself is a reputation killer. It has become a Gorgon for philosophers, upon whose visage even the best thinkers fear to gaze. They have good reason for their aversion. Most of the history of philosophy consists of failed models of the mind. The field of discourse is strewn with the wreckage of theories of consciousness. After the decline of logical positivism in the middle of the twentieth century, and the attempt of this movement to blend science and logic into a closed system, professional philosophers dispersed in an intellectual diaspora. They emigrated into the more tractable disciplines not yet colonized by science – intellectual history, semantics, logic, foundational mathematics, ethics, theology, and, most lucratively, problems of personal life adjustment.

Philosophers flourish in these various endeavors, but for the time being, at least, and by a process of elimination, the solution of the riddle has been left to science. What science promises, and has already supplied in part, is the following. There is a real creation story of humanity, and one only, and it is not a myth. It is being worked out and tested, and enriched and strengthened, step by step. (9-10)

Nevertheless, an iron rule exists in genetic social evolution. It is that selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. The victory can never be complete; the balance of selection pressures cannot move to either extreme. If individual selection were to dominate, societies would dissolve. If group selection were to dominate, human groups would come to resemble ant colonies.

Overall, it seems now possible to draw a reasonably good explanation of why the human condition is a singularity, why the likes of it has occurred only once and took so long in coming. The reason is simply the extreme improbability of the preadaptations necessary for it to occur at all. Each of the evolutionary steps has been a full-blown adaptation in its own right. Each has required a particular sequence of one or more preadaptations that occurred previously. Homo sapiens is the only species of large mammal – thus large enough to evolve a human-sized brain – to have made every one of the required lucky turns in the evolutionary maze. (45)

People around the world today, growing cautious of war and fearful of its consequences, have turned increasingly to its moral equivalent in team sports.

raises a fundamental question: are we also evolving genetically? Medical research, added to a deepening analysis of the three billion nucleotide letters of the human genome, has revealed that evolution is indeed still occurring

Social intelligence was therefore always at a high premium. A sharp sense of empathy can make a huge difference, and with it in an ability to manipulate, to gain cooperation, and to deceive.

The creation myth is a Darwinian device for survival.

The creation myth is a Darwinian device for survival. Tribal conflict, where believers on the inside were pitted against infidels on the outside, was a principal driving force that shaped biological human nature.

the genes of modern-day Africans are a treasure house for all humanity. They possess our species’ greatest reservoir of genetic diversity, of which further study will shed new light on the heredity of the human body and mind. Perhaps the time has come, in light of this and other advances in human genetics, to adopt a new ethic of racial and hereditary variation, one that places value on the whole of diversity rather than on the differences composing the diversity. It would give proper measure to our species’ genetic variation as an asset, prized for the adaptability it provides all of us during an increasingly uncertain future. Humanity is strengthened by a broad portfolio of genes that can generate new talents, additional resistance to diseases, and perhaps even new ways of seeing reality. For scientific as well as for moral reasons, we should learn to promote human biological diversity for its own sake instead of using it to justify prejudice and conflict.

the human condition is a singularity,

The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.

The origin of modern humanity was a stroke of luck—good for our species for a while, bad for most of the rest of life forever. All

There is a principle to be learned by studying the biological origins of moral reasoning. It is that outside the clearest ethical precepts, such as the condemnation of slavery, child abuse, and genocide, which all will agree should be opposed everywhere without exception, there is a larger gray domain inherently difficult to navigate. The declaration of ethical precepts and judgments made from them requires a full understanding of why we care about the matter one way or the other, and that includes the biological history of the emotions engaged. This inquiry has not been done. In fact, it is seldom even imagined. With deepened self-understanding, how will we feel about morality and honor? I have no doubt that in many cases, perhaps the great majority, the precepts shared by most societies today will stand the test of biology-based realism. Others, such as the ban on artificial conception, condemnation of homosexual preference and forced marriages of adolescent girls, will not. Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that ethical philosophy will benefit from a reconstruction of its precepts based on both science and culture. If such greater understanding amounts to the “moral relativism” so fervently despised by the doctrinally righteous, so be it.

The term “humanities” includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism, and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.

TO FORM GROUPS, drawing visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and to defend the group enthusiastically against rival groups—these are among the absolute universals of human nature and hence of culture.

We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.

We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.

What drove the hominins on through to larger brains, higher intelligence, and thence language-based culture? That, of course, is the question of questions.

When the great theologian and philosopher Rabbi Hillel was challenged to explain the Torah in the time he could stand on one foot, he replied, “Do not do unto others that which is repugnant to you. All else is commentary.